Ben Solo stalked up the hill, a light spray of cool rain making his feet slip repeatedly on the oft taken mud path. His beige robes were being splattered with more mud than he could possibly wash off and his boots were already irredeemable. His eyes were wet too, though he would die before admitting it was not the rain making them so.
Ben Solo didn’t cry. Ben Solo didn’t walk off in a huff to a secret spot high on the treacherous mountains to lick his wounds and brood. And like those uncouth louts in his class so tastelessly jeered, Ben Solo certainly wasn’t in love with Rey, five years younger little Rey, orphan Rey who helped clean their school, the little Rey of sunshine who always smiled at him, smuggled snacks for him, listened to his rants and sometimes just sat in silence with him. How could he not smile back at her? How could he be not kind to her? This morning, he got her books to study. How did that signify some tawdry love affair?
Of course he had to beat up those little shits.
Ben reached his spot, a little clearing shielded on two sides by the mountain and one other by lush trees. The fourth side was a sheer drop hundreds of feet deep. Between the edge and the rock wall there was space for around ten of Ben’s steps when he felt like pacing.
He didn’t feel like pacing today. He sat down and took a breath before closing his eyes. Ben tried to quiet his chaotic thoughts and find a spot of peace to center himself. His efforts proved elusive as his seventeen year old flighty teenage brain conjured images of his earlier fight again. He had fought with four other boys, his tormentors, and had a number of cuts and bruises to show for it. The others looked worse, was what he smugly told himself before trying to corral his runaway thoughts again. He needed to calm down before showing his face to Master Luke. If his meditation Force cured some of the more superficial bruises on his face, then all the better.
After a while of trying, Ben finally emptied his mind of all conscious thought and found his trance. The feel of rain became a caress. The scent of water, of the mountain, of the flowers and trees, perfume to his senses. The sounds of water hitting dirt, rock and tree, of little birds singing for their mates, of insects trying to rescue their subterranean abodes, of the wind, of the sea in a distance all came into sharp focus. Life flowed through him and around him. A sun was coming up, warming his chilled skin, soothing his hurt and filling empty spaces around him.
Eyes still closed, Ben smiled, content for the first time in the blasted day.
“You should have gone to the medic before running off.” complained a small voice from behind him, “I had to carry the supplies all the way, up the mountain, in the rain, with my small arms!”
Using a little of his power, Ben lifted her basket from her arms and hovered it in front of her face. She pushed it aside to look at him and he pushed the basket in front of her eyes again.
“What are you doing? I want to look how much damage your latest hissy fit caused us.”
Caused us, she said!
She was ridiculous.
“No, you are ridiculous, picking stupid fights with four big guys over empty talk. Now let me see.” Rey answered, catching the words he hadn’t even said aloud. Not to mention, the little busybody had found him again when he was trying to hide so hard. The universe only knew how. All he knew was that there was something inside her that let her know where he was and what he was thinking. But whenever he talked to his teachers to get her tested and trained in the ways of the Force, that little seed of special inside her completely disappeared. It came out only in front of him, only when they were alone. It was extremely frustrating.
Rey extended the stick of her umbrella and thrust it in the damp grass beside him, offering them both protection from the rain. She snatched the basket still hovering around her head and rolled off the tarp covering. It contained a few bottles, clean cotton bandages and a small wrapped parcel tucked in a corner.
“Ah thanks! I’m starving.” Ben pulled the wrapped sandwich to his open hand and tore off the leafy wrapping from around his berry jelly sandwich.
“Of course you are.” She mumbled distractedly while dabbing a cut on his eyebrow with a folded piece of gauze dripping with an antiseptic suspension. It hurt but Ben didn’t whine. He did have a sandwich to eat and concentrate on.
Rey methodically cleaned and spread ointment on all the cuts and bruises she could see, grumbling about stupid boys and their stupid antics. The stupid boy in question stuffed his face with the snack she’d brought him and thought how lucky he was to have Rey, his only true friend in a crowd of people who were either dazzled by his bloodline, afraid of his immense power or disgusted with his ancestry. They looked at him too closely, analyzed every move too critically and were quick to pass judgment. As if they were waiting for him to go dark like his grandfather. Or shine bright like his uncle, the hero of the galaxy.
It got hard to breath under the scrutiny sometimes. Lately, Ben had been feeling too close to the edge. He was quick to anger and snappy. His earlier fight was going to generate him a lot of grief.
But for now, Rey was fussing over his bruises while they sat under her umbrella high up the mountain. It was quiet and peaceful. His mind was calm.
“You are my only friend here” He whispered, solemn and serious.
“I know” she shrugged and went back to bandaging a cut on his arm.